The current issue of LJ has our annual baseball book review roundup in it. This year’s lineup is especially strong, so LJ book reviewer Gilles Renaud and I had lots of fun. Of course in LJ‘s regular sports book review category, there will be future baseball books assessed as we get into the season!
One of my favorites in the roundup is Jane Heller’s Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankees, now out from Rodale. We gave it a star.
I was really happy to get the chance to have an email chat with Jane (JH) about her book. Readers will be familiar with her as a best-selling novelist (e.g., Princess Charming); her skills at pacing, repartee, and character sketching are vividly on display in this memoir. And what a baseball whiz!
MH: I loved your book! So refreshing after so many books (by either gender) explaining sports to women as if we’re a bunch of dolts who are only interested in sports in the first place in order to keep a guy interested in us!
JH: I’m thrilled that you loved the book. I really thought it was time to have one written by a female baseball fan that doesn’t talk down to women or lump them into a category of pink hatters (not that there’s anything wrong with a pink hat). There are so many women who love baseball—50% of those going through the turnstiles at ballparks are women—so why not a memoir about a “she-fan”?
MH: Here, here! Although I have to confess that as I haven’t been out to the ballpark as much, as an adult, as when I was a kid. Growing up in NYC, I used to go to the Yanks during those seasons with guys like Horace Clarke that you mention, but it meant I saw Mickey Mantle (in decline) and Denny McLain in his 30-win season when the Tigers were in town. Still, as a teenager I didn’t have the adventures you did with the Yanks! You’re a true fan, loving them through thick and thin. Myself, I got dejected over the DH and switched leagues.
JH: Detroit had a great team back then. Denny McLain. Mickey Lolich. Norm Cash. Wow! How am I coming up with those names? I can’t remember what happened yesterday! I fell in love with the Yanks through my two grandfathers. After my father died, they’d come over to our house on Sunday afternoons, smoke their cigars and watch Yankees games on TV. I was only six, but they taught me how to keep score. I was fascinated by all the new vocabulary words I was learning: “bunt” and “shutout” and “chin music.” Over the years, my interest in baseball waxed and waned—there were two marriages and divorces, as well as job changes within the publishing industry (I worked in publicity for several houses) – but I remained devoted to the boys in pinstripes. I’m not wild about the DH either, but switch leagues? Switch teams? Never!
MH: I was getting very peeved at the Yankee front office (Jason Zillo, et al) for how they were treating you! No press pass, no clubhouse access. Have you heard anything more from them since?
JH: I sent Jason Zillo a copy of my book when it first came off press. I inscribed it. I thanked him for denying me access to the clubhouse, because the book was a better story without it. What fun would it have been to sit with the writers in the press box? Instead, I sat with other fans. It was a far richer experience.
MH: Good point!
JH: I also sent a signed copy to Joe Torre. I thanked him for stealing my publication date and for hogging the spotlight on all the talk shows. :)
MH: Well, LJ gave your book a star and not his. Your book is better! You’re very funny about how superstitious you’d get about if the Yankees won or lost a game and having to eat (or not eat) the same “winning” food, watch the next game in the same chair, etc. During the off-season, do you transfer that baseball superstitiousness to something else, or does it just go into hibernation?
JH: Funny you mention my superstitious baseball fandom. I wrote a piece for the New York Times sports section this month: with spring training right around the corner, I wanted to know how the Yankees were going to fare in ‘09. Would they win their 27th championship? Would their expensive free agents be worth the money? Would A-Rod rebound? So I went to a tarot card reader. Seriously. I asked her questions about the Yankees and their future. It was a hoot.
MH: I know one of your novels had a pro-football player in it, who becomes a former pro-football player. Do you think about a baseball novel?
JH: Yes, my novel An Ex to Grind has a pro-football player as the ex-husband. I’ve thought about writing a novel with a baseball setting, but editors seem to think there’s no market for one. I’m hoping the success of Confessions of a She-Fan will prove them wrong.
MH: And now about A-Rod. Your book has a great opening and closing in which you and A-Rod “meet”…With these recent revelations, what would you say to A-Rod in your next “meeting”?
JH: I’ve been blogging about him nonstop, of course. My thoughts are that I should have pressed him a little harder when I “interviewed” him in that dream. Remember when I asked him about using steroids and he said no? Well, I did say he looked nervous and twitchy, so maybe I had some tiny inlking that he was lying. Still, I was sickened by the news. I just want to focus on baseball and hear that first crack of the bat! So, to answer your question….If I were sitting down with him now, I would ask, “Are you sorry you did steroids or just sorry you got caught?” And then I’d give him a hug. Kumbaya.